Lauren FitzGerald, ‘15
This past week the Washington Post offered a “round table” of Op-Ed articles discussing topics that happens to be very relevant to our program: women, leadership, and higher education. Several articles, all by female college presidents, highlighted trending topics including the “glass ceiling” for women, the differences between top male and female graduates, and why we need more women to run our schools. Each of these three pieces seems to agree that women and men are not equal in the workforce, even right out of college, despite the male-to-female ratios within the institutions.
Undergraduate institutions are now more than ever the norm for high school graduates of both sexes; they are designed to train good citizens with diversity and academic knowledge, as well as skills needed for the workplace. If this is truly the case, then why do men still outpace women in many professional areas from income to leadership positions? An article by Debora Spar explores this situation as she details specific experiences of each gender. According to Spar, women still face some amount of sexism within colleges and universities as they take on easier classes and more activities while men are able to focus on harder classes with fewer commitments. To me, this is a modern version of the home maker/ bread-winner mentality: women learn to juggle many activities, a useful skill for balancing children and a career, while men learn skills to help climb the corporate ladder.
Higher education is beginning to recognize the need for a more diverse group of “higher ups;” a more diverse group of leaders is beneficial to change and a variety of strengths in many areas. An article by Amy Guttman recognizes the importance of workplace diversity and the advocacy needed to encourage it in the future. In order to accomplish this, however, Gutmann recognizes that young, talented women need to be groomed by “sponsors” and individuals in preparation for these positions. Once accomplishments have been made, statistics and studies available to the public can provide results to potential employers, and hopefully increase the number of female leaders climbing the ladder in the workforce.
The corporate ladder and the “glass ceiling” are two other discussions that highlight the uneven relationship between sexes in the workplace. Although many professions may be male-dominated, women can, and have, made it to the top with their male counterparts. Georgia Nugent offers some great advice to women in her piece by stating the importance of balancing humor with the ability to hold your ground, playing the lesson of the gambler: “Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em; know when to walk away, know when to run.” These key ideas have guided the college president through tough times to success in a male dominated position.
Recognizing these issues of gender inequality and identifying ways to counter them are great steps in the process increasing the number of female leaders in the US, exemplified by these three accomplished women.